Friday, May 4, 2012

Yesterday I posted "Hated by Literature," an essay about books that make me uncomfortable but that, for whatever reason, I continue to reread. Although I did eventually manage to find a journal that was willing to take the piece, it was a difficult essay to publish--by far the most difficult of all the chapters in the manuscript I'm calling The Vagabond's Bookshelf. While a number of journal editors probably just didn't like my writing style, I suspect a certain contingent was uncomfortable with the white-girl-versus-Malcolm X premise . . . and, interestingly, that contingent included white women who are vocal activists for women's equality in publishing.

When one takes a political stance, it becomes dangerous to admit ambiguity. This is understandable, I suppose, in the context of a rally or a campaign, but it is death to art. Writers know this truth--including these women editors, who are well educated, sophisticated citizens of literature--yet the ambiguities inherent within ourselves and our histories continue to confound and threaten all of us. Is it right, is it risky, for a white woman editor to publish a white woman's old-fashioned and semi-long-winded contemplation, one that, in some ways, takes Malcolm X's hallowed name in vain; one that, in some ways, reinforces both the humiliations and the humilities of male-female relations? The piece is both non-cutting-edge in style (to employ a cliche I particularly dislike) and radical-reactionary in morals. It has no safe readership.

I am writing this small epilogue not because I am angry at these editors, not because I think my essay is groundbreaking, not because I think it's wrong to take strong political stands against racism, sexism, classism, and other cruelties. All I am saying is that sometimes we forget that there is more than one way to be brave. As a friend of mine--a musician, a working man, a Republican voter--said to me the other day, in the gentlest, kindest, humblest voice imaginable, "I guess it all depends on where we stand on this earth, doesn't it?"

1 comment:

Ruth said...

Oh, how true. It certainly does depend on where we stand on this Earth. Would that all of us realized that we can work together no matter where we do stand.